5 Best Tips to Prevent Someone From Watching You When Downloading Torrents

Tim Brookes 18-08-2011

private torrent downloadsI’m not going to judge you. I know you partake in filesharing, and if you’re doing it properly then you’ll already be acquainted with BitTorrent (or Usenet, in which case you’re so “1337” you don’t need my help). Don’t feel bad – studies have suggested that those who download copious amounts of copyrighted data are still contributing to the industry in a big way, some even proposing that this demographic are the industry’s “largest customers”.

Regardless of your reasons, stance, operating system or client – there’s no need to get caught. Of course I can’t guarantee this won’t happen, but you can reduce the risk of a threatening letter with a little bit of common sense, patience and forethought.

Install Additional Security

The first thing you’ll want to do is cover as many bases as possible, and this is where PeerBlock comes in. We’ve mentioned PeerGuardian Protect Your Privacy On P2P With Peer Guardian 2 Read More before, but that software is unfortunately no longer maintained. Instead the authors recommend everyone switches to PeerBlock.

PeerBlock is a method of controlling who (and what) your computer talks to over the Internet. The software checks any incoming requests from known bad IP addresses including those of anti-piracy groups. This software will go some way towards protecting you, but only from known threats (which makes it far from watertight).

private torrent downloads

For that final layer of security then a VPN is the order of the day. By connecting to a virtual private network, all of your Internet traffic (and torrent data downloaded) is directed through a private connection, making it difficult for intruders to spy on you. There are a plethora of various VPN services out there, with clients for nearly every operating system you can think of (that’s right, even your iPhone). We’ve got a run-down of 7 free efforts right here 8 Totally Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy Free unlimited data VPNs don't exist unless they're scams. Here are the best actually free VPNs around that you can try safely. Read More .

Note: Free VPN services are notoriously touch-and-go. If you’re really concerned about security then a subscription service will provide you with the speed, stability and above all security you desire – at a cost of course.

Don’t Use Public Trackers

You’re far more likely to be caught for speeding in a busy, regularly policed area than you are on a quiet country lane – and copyright enforcement is no different. Public BitTorrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and Demonoid (which is virtually public) might be jam-packed with tasty torrents, but at what cost?

private torrent downloading

So where do you get your wares from? Easy – the smallest, most privacy-savvy trackers you can get into. If you’re a member of any “closed” private trackers, invite-only private trackers or torrent hubs that are clearly going out of their way to avoid detection then use them. If the trackers you use offer advanced privacy settings – e.g. hiding upload/download amounts from the public then use them!

Private trackers are not always safer places to be, and don’t assume a tracker is “private” just because you have to register. Some sites ask users to fulfill requests and enforce stringent ratio requirements (that everyone has to adhere to). You can learn more about maintaining private tracker memberships in our etiquette article BitTorrent Etiquette: How to Avoid Getting Banned From Private Trackers Read More .

Encrypt Torrent Data

This one is a fairly basic and obvious setting you’ll find on your BitTorrent client – encrypt your data. Many torrent clients support protocol encryption, which encrypts data in a bid to reduce throttling and blocking of torrent data by ISPs. If you’re looking to keep the powers that be off your back then steering clear of confrontations with your ISP is one way of going about it.

private torrent downloading

Don’t Download Unreleased Material

For some of you this will be the most difficult tip to follow – if next week’s big budget blockbuster release is staring you in the face with thousands of seeds – don’t download it. Where else do you think the MPAA, RIAA and other copyright enforcers hang out, picking off vulnerable targets?

private torrent downloading

Even if you buy all the things you download once you’ve sampled the goods – leave it well alone. The “I wouldn’t buy it anyway” defence won’t stand up either and you’ll be lumped with the thousands of other downloaders accused of copyright theft and potentially face a nasty fine and a criminal record.

Put it this way – if you thought downloading copyrighted material was already risky, downloading unreleased movies, music, books and games (especially from public torrent trackers) is outright foolish. You have been warned.

Use A Remote Seedbox

A seedbox is a server with a torrent client that is used for downloading and uploading files. Not only are they incredibly useful for serving private trackers and maintaining a spotless ratio, they also add an extra layer of separation between you and the torrent download.

private torrent downloads

With Internet connection speeds of 100Mbit or more large files can be downloaded (or uploaded) in record time. You can then connect to your box via your preferred method to collect your payload.

If you’re serious about private sites then a seedbox probably makes a lot of sense. Seedboxes can be rented from various providers online, a quick search will get you where you need to be.


Whilst you’ve been watching what you download, installing a VPN, blocking bad IP addresses and generally securing your box – did you think of checking behind you? Don’t forget that school teachers, parents, siblings or even a spouse might not approve – even if it is just because you’re sucking up all available bandwidth! Be careful out there. If you do receive a nasty notice and are wondering what to do about it then we’ve got an article that might answer a few questions How to Handle a Copyright Infringement Notice From Your ISP Received a copyright infringement notice from your ISP but don't know why? Here's what you need to do next. Read More .

How else do you protect yourself? Add a comment in the box below.

Image Credits: Intro (Shutterstock), Infringement Notice (TorrentFreak), Server Room

Related topics: BitTorrent, Online Privacy.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. john
    August 2, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I also believe other than using a VPN they still can detect the

    Serial No
    Product key

    Contact the manufacturer who registered the computer with key or serial number !
    I used my VPN but HP called me about downloading !

    Use a PC but do not register it with the manufacturer !

  2. mark
    February 15, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    are a big film corporation really going to bother some random individual downloading new film or music torrents? I mean the cost alone makes it very unlikely. Surely if anyone is to be targeted by big corporatons it's going to be the sites that make dowloading torrents so easy..

  3. Joe Phillips
    August 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Anyone have experience with BitThief?

    • Ijuakos Xqwzts
      May 16, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      You still have to connect to a tracker. Unfortunately, these days just connecting and being on that torrent's client list is enough to get a nasty-gram from these vultures.

  4. James Bruce
    August 19, 2011 at 7:34 am

    One minor point: in the screenshot regarding turning on encryption, you've left "enable incoming legacy connections", which means it will only use encryption when available. Far safer to turn off that off, and just force encryption for all connections. You will get less peers, but it's pretty worthless doing this step otherwise I think. 

  5. Guest
    August 19, 2011 at 2:28 am

    PeerBlock wont protect you from corporations from snooping on you torrent activity.
    They connect to the tracker for the torrent, collect a list of who's seeding and send of the relevant documents to the ISPs. The wont make any connection to your computer at all.

    • Jeffery Fabish
      August 19, 2011 at 3:30 am

      Mulder, is that you?!

      No, they download the torrent and from there other peers in the P2P network will download from them, that is how it inherently works. So a block list manager, such as Peerblocker grabs the list of IP Addresses in the swarm and uses the deny,allow rule. Deny all known bad IP addresses first, then allow the rest. 

      I believe this study proves beyond a reasonable doubt that IP Blocking  is a very good method of preventing AP2P snooping. Al tracker is simply a server. So essentially what you're saying is they are rooting the web server and monitoring who is requesting data from the tracker, which in it of itself is illegal. The trackers don't just allow someone to login and view what someone is doing (well, any decent ones anyway). 

      As an extension to "What to do when you get a copyright infringement letter", I suggest to write back and tell them you have enough garbage in your house as it is. You don't need their stupid fucking letters, too.

      Good article. I would defiantly add "use a VPN" to the list, as I'm pretty sure Bit Torrent & uTorrent only encrypts the handshake, therefor the rest of the connection can be viewed in clear text.